It’s hard to believe that World Soccer Shop turns 15 this month! And to celebrate, World Soccer Shop is offering special deals and promotions during August but before we blow out the candles and look forward to the next 15 years we take a look back at our launch in 2001.
Soccer merchandising in the U.S. and online shopping were new relatively new experiences for many of World Soccer Shop’s first customers. Official soccer jerseys were unheard of at big box sports stores and at soccer specialty stores the selection was limited to the home jersey of only the top 4-6 clubs (and frustratingly usually not in the correct size).
The first jersey carried at World Soccer Shop was the 2001/02 Newcastle United home jersey. The black and white stripes were a classic then as they are today and also featured a white/black v-neck collar, adidas 3-Stripes running down the top of the shoulder to the white sleeve cuff, and of course the ntl: (now part of Virgin Media) sponsor logo.
Other jerseys started streaming into the receiving department but the goal was not to have the same or slight better selection than everyone else but to have the best selection of official jerseys in the world. Founder and CEO Bernard Frei used his frequent business trips and flights back to the UK to see his family as opportunities to source new and rare jerseys.
“My travels had one thing in common,” Frei explained to Soccer365.. “I left with 1 full suitcase and returned with 3 full suitcases.”
The 2 additional suitcases were of course filled with hard-to-find, really impossible to find jerseys (smaller club jerseys, away jerseys, third jerseys, etc) which were unheard of in the U.S.
The online store was not much more sophisticated than the purchasing process. World Soccer Shop’s frontpage included 12 items with thumbnail and brief description along with a short but growing list of options on the left side nav bar.
Not much different than our first print catalog the following year in anticipation of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
World Soccer Shop worked with adidas to get Zinedine Zidane on the catalog’s cover. The French international led Les Bleus to the 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup titles and had made headlines in 2001 with his then world record €75 million transfer from Juventus to Real Madrid. The Italy national team featured on the back cover with 250 products in between.
Zidane’s transfer to Real Madrid was one of the top headlines in 2001 but it was not the only one fans were following in the U.S.
Major League Soccer, the U.S.’ domestic league, was in its 6th season with 10 teams and by no means certain of long-term success. The Miami Fusion won the regular season while Landon Donovan helped the San Jose Earthquakes to the MLS Cup title.
More and more fans were discovering the European game although it was not as easy. The games available on TV were limited with Fox Sports World, a precursor of Fox Soccer/FS, and pay-per-view some of the only options to watch a game. Streaming…not even an option in 2001. World Soccer Shop is still proud for being a major sponsor of Fox Sports World and occasional pat ourselves on the back from time-to-time for our contribution to making European soccer available on TV in the U.S.
Manchester United won the 2000/01 FA Carling Premiership with Arsenal the runners-up. It marked the third consecutive Premier League title and 7th top flight title overall for the Red Devils. Cross-town rival Manchester City were relegated after the season.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side made headlines before the season even kicked-off by signing a £30m partnership with Vodafone starting with the 2000/01 campaign that made the telecom company the club’s front-of-the-jersey sponsor ending the 18-year run on the jersey of the club’s first sponsor Sharp.
Meanwhile, Liverpool won a treble with victories in the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup. The Red also won the European Super Cup beating Bayern Munich 3-2.
Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga title and the UEFA Champions League. The German club outlasted Valencia 5-4 on penalties after the match ended 1-1. It was Bayern’s 4th European Championship.
La Liga was won by Real Madrid with Deportivo la Coruna the runners-up. Under Florentino Perez, Real started to assemble the Galacticos which over the years brought bona fide stars – Luís Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luís Figo, Roberto Carlos, Raúl, David Beckham and Fabio Cannavaro – to the club over the coming years. Barcelona could only manage a 4th place finish.
AS Roma won the scudetto with their victory on the final day of the season. Francesco Totti, was the club’s captain, and with 601 appearances and 248 goals hold several club marks and is still playing with the Rome club, the only club he has represented in his 24 year career. It marked their third title but is also their most recent title. Juventus was runner-up, 2 points behind Roma.
Other champions in Europe included PSV Eindhoven, who won the Dutch Eredivisie, Nantes took the Ligue 1 title in France, Boavista was champion of Portugal (the first title in 55 years for a non-‘big-three’ side), Olympiacos won the Greek championship, FC Sloven Liberec edged out Sparta Prague and Viktoria Zizkov by 1 point to take the title in the Czech Republic, and Fenerbahçe took the title in Turkey.
Back in the Americas, Boca Juniors defeated Cruz Azul 3-1 on penalties after a final aggregate score of 1-1. It was the 4th title for the Argentinean club.
In the 2001 Copa America, Colombia was host and Los Cafeteros won their first title with their 1-0 win over guest Mexico in Bogota.
The men’s and women’s NCAA College Cups featured 2 first time winners. North Carolina won their first men’s title while Santa Clara defeated the Tar Heels women’s team to notch their first title.
World Soccer Shop is offering 15% off on all orders for the month of August as we celebrate our birthday in style. Use coupon code ’15Years’ during checkout.